Garden, Plant, Cook!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Around The Garden and Harvest - February 16, 2018

Dear Folks,

Over cast and damp cool this morning, so I thought time for pictures, particularly after our harvest yesterday of sugar cane.

This is one of my Red "Lipstick Peppers".  This variety is sweet.

I also have an orange variety "Lipstick" - this plant is about 5 years old and still pushing out a lot of fruit several times a year.  When you look at the harvest plate picture below, you will notice the peppers are several different sizes.  Once peppers and tomatoes for that matter, start to color, that is the size they will remain while continuing to ripen.

My sugarpeas are still producing - I have 2 different varieties growing there, one which produces lovely blushed pods.  When you look at the harvest plate picture below noted the opened two pods at the bottom. These peas delicious raw or cooked when the pod swells.  Later on you can harvest the dried peas for storage for cooking later, but be sure to save some for resowing next fall.

I am very glad I did something different sowing this past fall and recently.  I planted more and closer together in each row, about 2 inches apart in a staggered conformation which produced multiple vines in a short row, and then I duplicated that in 3 more rows.  The last row I planted was about 3 weeks ago and those plants are about 4-5 inches tall now, so I should be harvesting sugar peas into April.

We (that is to say Deane) cut sugar cane yesterday to take to the zoo today.  This is a treat the elephants love and we have been doing this for several years now.  It is a lot of cane.

Deane, cut and I hauled to the trailer.  A REALLY good workout of about an hour and a half to 2 hours and then tarped and ready to deliver today.

Currently we have both white/green and a purple variety of sugar cane.  I have decided to downsize and just keep the purple.

There is a cool trick for expressing the sugar cane juice out for a homeowner.  Cut the mature cane (still must have green leaves so you know it is fresh) into about 2 inch pieces. Fill the largest crock pot you have rinse, then top with water, cover.  Set on high for 1 hour, then reduce to low for about 5-6 hours.  Taste.  If necessary to reduce further, strain (compost the pieces) put the strained juice on the stove and reduce more to you liking.  Store in the refrigerator and use within 7 days.

Harvest This Morning.
Our warm winter, officially identified as a La Nina dry/warm condition has kept both the peppers and tomatoes going gain busters while not slowing my sugar peas down at all.

Some flowers caught my attention this morning.  The undamaged parts of the eggplants are flowering so hopefully I will have early fruit this year.  With older eggplants, one needs to be mindful of the thorns which may grow on the calyx of older plant but new fruit.  A phenomenon which may be a way of trying to get the plant to reseed before it dies or the fruit is eaten by critters (or us!).

I have both lilac and purple colored stock blooming right now. The purple is such a rich "royal purple" color it is hard not to see it.  Stock is an edible flower (Matthiola incana) from the broccoli family and the flower and soft tips have that flavor. I have a relative who enjoys munching on some when visiting.  The flowers are also incredibly fragrant sweet scented.

I have Spanish Thyme and Lime Scented Geranium growing and they have both been loving the weather.  The Lime Scented Geranium is a really lime scent and this is one of the edible geraniums.  The Spanish Thyme (also called Cuban Oregano or Indian Borage) is from the same family as the house plant Creeping Charlie and is a fun soft velvet edible leaf (frequently deep fried as a garnish or chopped in a salad dressing).

Also in the garden our bare Saturn (Doughnut) Peach is what we call the "Dove Tree".  The various breeds like to hang out in the tree after eating the seed we out out (or waiting for us to put out the seed  *hurray up*).  We just chuckle at the site.

Not garden, but I have started a new "Saucisson" of Pork - a dry cured Salami.  This time I am using a larger loin so it will take longer to dry cure - I will check it in 5 weeks and see how it is doing.

If you want to know about dry curing this "salami" click here for the link to my post on how to.


Don't forget my Free Seed Share coming up on Saturday March 3rd at the Mesa Urban Garden.

Until next time, have a great day in the garden and kitchen.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

March Planting Tips- Warm with a Chance of Hail! And Two Events Coming Up

Dear Folks,

Hail?  Yes I know.  Hail sounds like a strange weather possibility as we go into even warmer times.

With the global weather weirding we have been having since fall, up / down temperatures with an even warmer winter, my garden journals have shown a possibility for hail in March, July and Fall.  This is caused by a combination of cool and warm air masses colliding as we move into Spring and other seasonal transition times, coupled with winds shifting.  So - have your frost protection handy for the possibility of hail.  You don't want your seedlings and tender transplants flattened to the ground with hail.

We also can have the odd frost in late February and into mid-March here in the valley, so again, keep the frost protection handy until all danger of frost (or hail) is over.

The poor man's cloche, cardboard boxes or even plastic lawn chairs can protect your plants from hail and soft frost.  [Pictured: Note the caps off the "cloche".  In this instance I was leaving the jugs in place and taking the caps off allows built up heat to vent.]

As we transition from cool weather loving plants into the warm weather loving ones, keep in mind tomatoes, basil etc. like their "feet" warm.  The odd cool days as we typically transition into the 90s by end of March and beginning of April, can actually "stall" growth of these warm soil lovers.  Don't fret.  They simple take a break from growing when the soil temporarily cools.  Once the soil warms again and continues they will again start robust growth.

March Planting

Artichoke, Jerusalem
Artichoke, Globe
Basil, Plant or seed
Bay, Greek aka Sweet
Bean, Lima
Beans, Snap
Beans, Soy (March 15th)
Bee Balm
Catnip, Plant or Seed
Chives, Garlic, Plant or seed
Chives, Onion, Plant or seed
English Daisy
Epazote, Plant or seed
Lemon Grass
Lemon Balm
Lemon Verbena
Marigolds including ,Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii), Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Melons, Winter
Melons, Musk
Onions, Green
Oregano, Mexican
Oregano, Greek
Perilla, Plant or Seed
Scented Geraniums
Squash, Winter
Summer Squash
Sweet Alyssum
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French

    If you are just now thinking about planting, see Flower Mulching technique. And run, do not walk, to purchase a water meter from your favorite garden nursery.  The gallop into high heat can occur this month with such rapidity that we can go 70 to 95 in 30 days. (In a rare occurrence, we hit a 100 one year on March 29th.)
    Get a jump on spring with weed cleanup.  Some pests breed on the winter weeds and can launch an incredible attack (a type of gnat can assume locus swarm proportions), which may cover everything light or white in color, plants, flowers, buildings, even clothes drying on the line.
    Perennial herbs will be starting to flower by end of March / beginning of April.  If you use thyme, marjoram, oregano or any of the trailing herbs as ground covers, enjoy the blooms, then give them a hair cut.  Remember the flowers are edible!
    The pest bugs like our mild weather too with aphids a particular pest.  SAFE Soap Spray for aphids: 1 tsp each vegetable oil and Dawn to 1 quart of water.  Spray every 5 days at sunset at least 3 times.  DO NOT MISS a follow up spraying - spraying once will not take care of the aphid problem.  The 1st gets the active adults, the 2nd one picks up the just hatched and missed ones and 3rd one gets the stragglers.

Flower Mulching Technique:  Imagine a 12 inch diameter circle.  Place your primary herb, vegetable or fruit plant in the middle and using 3-5 flowers from a six pack or 3-5 4 inch flowers plant very close to the primary plant staying within the imaginary 12 inches.  You can also plant the flowers first and then the primary plant, or you can use existing plantings to perform the same service.  Many of the flowers will survive to be used in salads etc. (which is why I choose seasonal edible flowers).  If the flower plants were not grown organically or without chemicals, wait 90 days before harvesting the flowers for food use.

Two Events Coming Up:

My FREE Seed Share and Q&A at Mesa Urban Garden - March 3rd, 11 a.m.

Click here for the event page.

The Arizona Herb Association is having their 2nd Annual Herb Festival February 24th, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  This all day event includes speakers, activities, tours and lunch.

Click here for the event page and to purchase tickets.

If you enjoy my monthly planting tips, my all year calendar is available for sale to have handy whenever you need to check on when to plant, regular maintenance and some recipes to encourage you!


My Publisher

Have a great time in the garden and Kitchen!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Seed Share Day, Q&A and Raffle Fun! March 3, 2018

Dear Folks,

My next FREE Seed Share Day is March 3rd with some extra fun additions at Mesa Urban Garden (MUG).

Two handmade quilts will be raffled off, as will some tomato seedlings grown by the MUG volunteers.

Tomato seedlings will be for sale too.

I will have my Seed Bank there.  And I will be answering your questions on what to plant now and later, garden maintenance issues and any concerns you have about growing edibles in the desert.  New to gardening here?  Perfect! This is the day to come out and see and learn how easy it is to grow some or more of your own vegetables, herbs and more right in your own back yard.

SEED SHARE AND Q&A with Catherine, The Herb Lady at Mesa Urban Garden, AND More!

A FUN combination event.

Saturday, March 3, 2018
11 a.m. to Noon

Mesa Urban Garden (MUG)
212 E 1st Ave (NE Corner of Hibbert and 1st Avenue)
Mesa, AZ 85210
(602) 370-4459


GET Your Tomato Seedlings!!  MUG will have tomato seedlings for sale!


RAFFLE for 2 quilts and seedlings to benefit the garden

QUESTION and ANSWERS  Catherine will answer your questions on choosing seasonal varieties and any other gardening questions you may have.


FREE Pick up some seeds to get growing or expand your garden.

SHARE seeds you have harvested from your own edibles.  You do not need to bring seeds to pick up some varieties you want to grow.

RAFFLE - purchase a raffle ticket to win one of two handmade quilts OR tomato seedlings (Seedlings will also be for sale separately).

SEEDLINGS FOR SALE - seedling starts will be available for sale all ready to put directly in the ground.

MUG - Mesa Urban Garden is an all volunteer, non-profit community garden.  You can rent a bed, all ready to garden in.

Donations help support MUG's year round programs of helping people grow their own food and also contribute fresh produce to the local food bank.

I hope to see you there.  Click on the link above.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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